Q&A: What to say when you are asked “What is your greatest weakness?”

Q: I polled people on Facebook to see what questions stumps them on an interview, and the clear winner was “Tell me your greatest weakness”.

Poll Results

A:  There is no all-purpose answer to this question. You certainly don’t want to bring up some skeleton from your closet, but on the flip side, you don’t want to use some cliché response, such as “I work too hard”, “I don’t know how to delegate”, or “I’m just too dedicated”. Barf.  I’m a big believer in three things. 1) We can all improve on something or expand our knowledge. 2) Honesty is the best policy. 3) Admitting that you are not perfect is a strength not a weakness. You just need to be careful about your delivery.  And while you are being careful about the delivery, be cognizant of your audience. Some people need to hear the cliché to tick that box off their “interview questions list”. But if you can sense that the interviewer wants a real answer, something like this might do the trick:   I have never had the opportunity to do _____________ (fill in the blank – public speaking, learning a new coding language, managing staff, getting a particular certification, etc), and would love the chance to pursue that.


4 Responses to Q&A: What to say when you are asked “What is your greatest weakness?”

  1. Craig Jones says:

    The best way to answer the greatest weakness question is in two parts. First, be totally honest and name your weakness. More importantly, follow up with what you do to mitigate it. For example, my answer is: “I tend to focus with a one-track mind, so you probably don’t want to rely on me being the person to track dozens on ongoing projects with critical daily milestones while I’m trying to accomplish long-range goals as well. If that’s part of my job description, then I’ll delegate that aspect to someone under me who is better at it, or horse trade it to someone at my level, whichever is more appropriate.”

  2. DaveLopez says:

    I think the candiate should be as honest as he can, even if it means he says “I don’t know”.

    • Janine Davis says:

      I agree with you Dave, but in case someone keeps pushing, it’s good to be prepared with at least something, otherwise, your palms will get all sweaty. What if you say “I don’t know”, and the interviewer says “Oh come on, there has to be something!” Maybe you wear too much plaid, for example. If nothing else, say something funny. But have some answer ready so you don’t produce a blank stare 🙂

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